Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Summer Garden by Sherryl Woods

The Summer Garden- A Chesapeake Shores Novel by Sherryl Woods
Published by Harlequin ISBN 978-0 7783-1309-0
Mass Market Paperback, $7.99

Let me start by saying that the romance genre is not one that I usually read. But something spoke to me about Sherryl Woods' The Summer Garden.

Maybe it was the beautiful cover art of a garden gazebo surrounded by lovely wildflowers. Maybe it was that the heroine Moira O'Malley is from Ireland, and I am Irish. Whatever it was, it captured my attention.

This is the 9th book in the Chesapeake Shores series, but I was able to jump right in without feeling lost. The numerous members of the O'Brien family live in Chesapeake Shores in Maryland, a small town where they own several businesses- an art gallery, a hotel, real estate management, an architecture firm- and young Luke O'Brien wants to join the club by opening up an Irish pub in town.

While it took a while to get to know who is who and how they are related (maybe a family tree and town map should be included for newbies to the series in the next book), but once I did, I fell in love with the O'Brien clan.

Moira met Luke when the clan went to Ireland for a family wedding, and they had a fling. Now Moira comes to America with her grandfather, who is having a romance with his long-ago love Nell, Luke's grandmother and owner of the titled summer garden.

In true romance novel fashion, Moira is maddening, "with the sharp tongue and wry wit." She is quick to anger and a bit mercurial. Luke, being a typical guy, is happy to see Moira, but not willing to make a commitment right away. He wants to wait and see what develops, and besides all his time and energy is going into making his pub a success.

What I liked about this novel was it's willingness to take on a hot topic: the changing role of women. Most of Luke's young female relatives have careers- one owns an art gallery, one owns the hotel-but Moira is not sure she wants to have a career.

She want to have a family and raise her children. When she was a child, her single mother had to work, and Moira wants a different life for her children. She discovers a talent for photography, but her heart is not it, and she is happier helping Luke prepare to open his pub.

Moira's ambivalence reflects what many young women feel today. Many of them were raised by single moms and would like to be there physically for their children. TV's The Good Wife recently tackled this in  an arc where Caitlyn, a savvy young lawyer with a promising career, leaves the law firm after one year because she is pregnant and getting married.

Two of the older women in the law firm, Diane, an unmarried founding partner in the firm, and Alicia, a third year associate who returned to practicing law after a 15 year absence to raise her children, are astounded by Caitlyn's decision. Caitlyn's announcement causes Alicia to reflect on her own life's decisions.

The push-and-pull between Moira and Luke got a bit tedious at times, I thought that perhaps the author was beating a dead horse, but then I reflected upon my own experience many years ago and thought perhaps she really did capture that uncertain feeling of young love.

I enjoyed The Summer Garden, especially after not reading many romances. The romance between Luke's grandmother and Moira's grandfather was sweet. As the former owner of a restaurant, I related to Luke's efforts getting his pub up and running. But mostly, I liked getting to know the O'Brien family and will look for other books in this series.

rating 4 of 5 stars

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